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Liberating pleasure

From  1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:

Lama meditating at Borobodur, Java, 1979Lama Yeshe loved listening to the radio and kept in touch with world events. The BBC World Service, Voice of America and Radio Australia all reached Nepal. Lama was also interested in contemporary issues such as feminism, a subject he raised with Sylvia Wetzel. “I told him,” said Sylvia, “he always gave me the feeling that although he was a monk in a patriarchal tradition, his attitude to women was not merely tolerant acceptance but real encouragement to be different, to be strong, emotional and confident. I also pointed out that while there are some truly wonderful Tibetan teachers, one could not help noticing that Tibetans clearly preferred having monks around them rather than women. My opinion was that there were really very few teachers in philosophy, psychology and religion, or in Buddhism, who were as open to women as he was.”

Lama was always open to honest enquiry and Sylvia took the opportunity to complain about all the traditional “fiddling about” with the dorje and bell during prayers. “I can’t relate to all this Indian stuff and I don’t want to do it. I just want to meditate on the sadhana,” she said. Lama Yeshe suggested she create a drawing of a dorje and bell, put it in front of her and occasionally look at it. “That’s good enough,” he told her – that kind and frequent response which students experienced as warm and total acceptance of their efforts.

One day a student asked about the meaning of the traditional seven water bowls—offerings to the buddhas that include water for drinking, water for washing the feet, flowers, incense, light, perfume and food. Music is the eighth offering, but as sound is not a tangible object it is not always represented by a water bowl. “Nothing special,” Lama replied. “When friends come to your house you open the door, ask if they would like to wash their hands, and then offer them a drink or some food. You put nice flowers in the dining room for them and even in the West you use incense and perfumes for the house. You have electricity, but you still light candles. You also play music. So these are the offerings. You already offer those things naturally. There’s no need to make a big deal out of it as some Eastern cultural thing.” The point is to offer these objects of the senses, rather than to take the pleasure of experiencing them only for oneself. In this way pleasure becomes liberating rather than simply increasing attachment and as a consequence, suffering.

Daja with Max, 1979

Daja with Max, 1979

One day Lama told Max Redlich (now Thubten Gelek) that he would one day be in Time magazine. “Oh, come on, Lama, why would they put you in Time?” said Max. “What?” said Lama. “You don’t believe?” As time would tell, Lama was not joking.[1]

Susanna Parodi had been living and working at Manjushri Institute under the care of Nicole Couture for quite awhile. She was doing much better, although she was still in fragile health. Now she wanted to return to Italy. On 15 January 1979 Lama wrote to Susanna Parodi in his peculiar idiom.

Dear Susanna my daughter,

We receive your letter. I am very happy you stay in Manjushri Institute up until now. We all happy here. As you wishes you can go with Nicole but the conditions are you cannot go to Milan or to Rome, you can only go to Lama Tzong Khapa Institute. Otherwise I will come and chase you.

Fine, as you wishes,

Your Yeshe

[1].    Lama Yeshe never appeared in Time magazine during his own lifetime. However, after the birth and recognition of his reincarnation, Osel Hita, Time did an extensive article on him in which Lama Yeshe was featured in detail. CN

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